A day after the newly-elected President of Maldives Mohamed Muizzu was sworn in, India’s representative, the Earth Sciences minister Kiren Rijiju met him where President Muizzu “formally requested” the Indian government to “withdraw its military personnel” from the island nation, the Maldives President’s office said in a statement.
The Maldives President’s office said that President Muizzu “acknowledged the significant role of the two helicopters in providing numerous emergency medical evacuations”.
Confirming that the President brought up the issue of Indian military personnel present in Maldives for operating aircraft for medical evacuation and counter drug trafficking purposes, when minister Rijiju called on him, sources in the Indian government said that it was “agreed” that the “two governments would discuss workable solutions for continued cooperation” through the use of these platforms as this “serves the interests of the people of Maldives”.
Sources said that President Muizzu “acknowledged the contribution of these Indian helicopters and aircraft for medical evacuation of Maldivian citizens”. “They are also central to the confidence that international tourists have staying on remote islands. He appreciated their role in monitoring and combating drug trafficking,” the source said.
In an official statement, the Maldives President’s office said, “At the meeting, President Muizzu had formally requested the Government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives. The President noted that at the Presidential Election held in September, the Maldivian people had given him a strong mandate to make the request to India and expressed the hope that India will honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives. While discussing the matter with Minister Kiren Rijiju, President Dr Muizzu also acknowledged the significant role of the two helicopters in providing numerous emergency medical evacuations.”
Choppy waters ahead
Last month, MEA’s official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said last month on October 18, while responding to questions on Maldives, “Over the last five years, more than 500 medical evacuations have been carried out by our personnel, saving 523 Maldivian lives. Of these, 131 evacuations were carried out this year, another 140 last year, and a further 109 in 2021. Similarly, during the last five years, more than 450 multifaceted missions have been carried out to safeguard the maritime security of Maldives. Of these, 122 missions were carried out last year, while the 152 and 124 missions were undertaken in 2021 and 2020 respectively. India has also been the first responder for Maldives in any disaster scenario, including most recently during COVID.”
Muizzu came to power riding on the Opposition alliance’s India Out campaign, and he defeated President Ibu Solih, who was viewed as friendly towards India. The newly-elected President is seen as a proxy of former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, who has been pro-China during his stint between 2013 and 2018.
During the meeting, Muizzu and Rijiju also “reviewed the progress of the implementation of various projects in the Maldives with the support of India. The President emphasised the importance of accelerating the Greater Male’ Connectivity Project (GMCP), highlighted the importance of addressing and overcoming the issues delaying the project”, the Maldives’ President’s office said.
It said that Rijiju conveyed his best wishes to the President, representing the sentiments of the Government and the people of India. “The Minister expressed his aspiration to foster a constructive relationship with the Maldives, acknowledging the presence of a vibrant Indian community residing in the Maldives…they concluded the meeting with a renewed commitment to fortify the bilateral relations between the two countries”, the statement said.